New Technology May Lead To Light- And Heat-Sensitive Tent

The tent we’re all familiar with from camping trips may soon be old tech thanks to a new material designed by a team of Harvard scientists.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have announced in a press release that they’ve developed a flexible material that can shed or retain moisture, and turn from opaque to transparent.

You can see how it works in the image below. The material is a liquid-repellent film that coats, and is infused in, an elastic porous backing. Normally the surface is flat and will shed water, but when the backing is stretched it changes the size of the pores, causing the surface to become rough and retain droplets.

In its normal state the material is transparent, but when stretched it becomes opaque. The material could be used to make a tent that blocks light on a dry and sunny day, and becomes transparent and water-repellent on a dim, rainy day.

The material may also be used in products as diverse as contact lenses and water pipes.

Researchers were inspired by the function of tears, which block materials from damaging the eye, and flush out these materials, yet remain transparent. Such inspiration is typical of work at the Wyss Institute, which looks to nature to find solutions to technological problems.

Top image courtesy Krish Dulal. Bottom image courtesy Harvard University.

Accident On The Trail? Science, Nature To The Rescue

On the trail, adventure travelers know the importance of basic first-aid skills when thousands of feet up on a climb, camped miles from nowhere or hiking off the beaten path where a call to 911 brings help. When an emergency happens, knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death.

New research done at the University of Michigan, Harvard University and the City University of New York indicate that brain stimulation releases an opiate-like pain killer. Using electricity on certain regions in the brain of a patient with severe pain, scientists were able to release one of the body’s most powerful painkillers.

Hikers, campers, climbers and others commonly off the grid when traveling, might find this ability useful when an accident happens. Waiting for first-responders to arrive with help can be a very long time when in severe pain.

A natural substance produced by the brain that alters pain perception, called mu-opioid receptors (MOR’s), is the hero here.

“This is arguably the main resource in the brain to reduce pain,” said Alexandre DaSilva, assistant professor of biologic and materials sciences at the U-M School of Dentistry and director of the school’s Headache & Orofacial Pain Effort Lab in Laboratory Equipment.”We’re stimulating the release of our [body’s] own resources to provide analgesia,” adds DaSilva. “Instead of giving more pharmaceutical opiates, we are directly targeting and activating the same areas in the brain on which they work. [Therefore], we can increase the power of this pain-killing effect and even decrease the use of opiates in general, and consequently avoid their side effects, including addiction.”

Looking for other natural painkillers may not require waiting for science to arrive at our favorite gear store though. In this video, Kate Armstrong, The Urban Forager, shares how to find a natural pain killer from nature.

[Photo Credit- Flickr user iwona_kellie]